Archive for February, 2011

Hurts So Good

Monday, February 28th, 2011

by Samantha Prust

In my January post, I blogged about how I started my home renovation in 2002. I promised I would reveal what I found in the giant juniper bush as I hacked away at its branches. The photo on the left is the Juniper bush, or "Juniper Beast" as we called it, halfway through its demise. The photo on the right is after the Juniper Beast was defeated.

I also promised to tell you where spiders go when you chop down their living quarters. And what about those handy landscaping tips for poor people, including, ìDonít stand on top of your roommateís van to trim trees with a bow saw?" Yes, all of those answers will be revealed here in this super secret blog.

Before I started cleaning up the landscaping, I had the help of roommates and friends to fix up the interior. We painted some of the walls and removed old carpeting, which revealed wood floors underneath. I've done a lot to the interior since then with the help of my hubby, but at the time, adding some paint and ripping out carpeting was about all I could do money wise.

After doing this initial interior remodeling,† I moved the renovation outdoors. I removed overgrown foliage around the house and in the front and back yards, all to create a blank slate. The biggest foliage removal challenge was the Juniper Beast. Someone years ago planted it too close to the house; you couldn't even see the backyard from the side yard. I hacked away at that thing for a couple of months. In it, I discovered many treasures: old socks, beer bottles, various kids' toys, tennis balls and lots of trash. Anything that got too close got sucked in. I hoped the kid who owned those toys made it out okay.

I also chopped a huge lilac bush down to the crown and suddenly, you could see the front porch. Then, when I chopped down a towering evergreen bush that was hiding the wonderful picture windows in front, the neighbor from across the street came over and said, "I'm amazed. I didn't even realize there were windows there!"

So, that brings us to the answer to the question, "Where do spiders go when you chop down their living quarters? Into yours. Yep, it seemed as if every spider had relocated to the inside of my house. I put out spider traps along the walls, those little folded paper tents that smell like peanut butter. It took a few months, but, finally, the house was spider freeñas spider free as a house can be.

Because I was a new home buyer with little money, I didn't have a lot of the tools you need to own a home. That "handy landscaping tip" for poor people about not standing on top of your roommate's van to trim trees with a bow saw comes from personal experience. I didn't fall or injure myself or damage the van, but I came pretty darn close to doing all three. Let's just say that tree branches don't always fall the way you plan.

I think the best part of these experiences is that everything I did felt like a major accomplishment, no matter how mundane. Pulling out carpet staples for three hours? Yes! Give me more workñthis feels great! Ouch, my back. It hurts so good!


Thursday, February 24th, 2011

"An-ti-ci-pa-tion" the way Carly Simon sang it sounded marvelous.

I am enjoying the anticipation of a long overdue visit with my brother. Always our family has been close - you know, the kind of close that means we call one another, criss-crossing the country with our phone calls.

My sister Lynda and I are on the phone at least three times a week. Same with my brother Lawrence. Cousins, too. We might not see one another often, but we remain connected. Thank goodness for VOIP and lots of cell phone minutes!

We are grounded in the safety net we provide for one another. We've been through births and weddings and graduations and adventures. We've also shared illnesses, deaths, divorces and life's disappointments more often over the phone than in person.

But for the next 2 weeks I will have the distinct pleasure of sharing face-time with my Bro - and taking him all around Colorado yet again. Each time he visits he sees more of my favorite places. And always, the laughs and memories we share are gifts to be savored.

Delicious ... this anticipation.† Sing it Carly!


Monday, February 21st, 2011



Fay Ulanoff

††††††††††† Terrance Nebly slid open the glass door to his back yard in order to have a bit of solitude.

††††††††††† He moved one chair close to the other to rest his feet from the day.

The chairs were comfortable enough to accommodate his big bottom, if he could just settle in and wrap his mind around his plan for the rest of the afternoon, or would he have to tend to his responsibility of the key keeper to the apartments he rented so quickly to those hasty people on welfare, or maybe go with his passion, and pen the Great American Novel

††††††††††† All was quiet, as he escaped the sun by closing his eyes behind a large pair of goggle eyed sunglasses.

††††††††††† The moment was his and his alone, but his stomach felt empty.

††††††††††† Lunch time had passed him by while he munched down on a dark chocolate candy bar, worrying with every bite. Would there be enough time to rinse his teeth from the ever threatening twenty minute limit before tooth decay.† Because experts have said that if you donít brush your teeth, or at least pass water over them, you will be doomed. And Terrance Nebly felt harried and feared he might become a toothless wonder and not be able to pay the exorbitant costs of a dentist worth receiving it.

††††††††††† His thoughts were interrupted by a woman and her young son walking around his back patio requesting the key to their new apartment.†

††††††††††† Terrance pushed his way up from his comfy chair and told them to wait there for a moment until he returned to his own lodging to get it.

††††††††††† He shuffled in his slippers through the door and glanced back to the two chairs heíd left vacant in the yard, that were, just a moment before, his refuge, were now inhabited by these strangerís bottoms.

††††††††††† Well thatís just great, he thought as he retrieved the keys which were hanging on a big brown wooden board in his kitchen.

††††††††††† Oh, here they are.† Iím glad that didnít take to long because you never know who you can trust in these desperate times, especially people such as those two, who are already needy and down on their luck.

††††††††††† The woman smiled as she stood up, pulled her boy to his feet. ìThank you so much.† This really means a lot to us.† I mean getting in our apartment early, what with my ex boyfriend out on bail and him chasing me from one place to the other.î

††††††††††††Now Iíll really†have something to worry about.† I wish I had rented the apartment to the retired nurse, on Social Security and a pension. At least that was a fixed income.† But I assumed that someone on the dole would be a guaranteed.† Well I suppose Iíll just have to keep an eye on them, because if anything happens, this complex could get a bad name.† Then my free-lance days as a writer would be over and I along with my new tenants would be, without a place to live and me minus an income.

††††††††††† Well I better show these two to their new front door and get back to my chairs, then figure out what to do for the rest of the day, because this decision might be a life changer.

The Comforts of Old Age

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Our society tends to discredit any advantages to growing old. We seem to have an inbred cultural fear of looking old, acting old, being old. But, hereís the surprise ñ once you are old you discover much to be grateful for.

Now that I am old, I never wear shoes that are uncomfortable. Ditto for clothing. If itís too tight, too loose, too short, too faded, too ragged, too anything ñ itís zap into the Good Will bag. Itís out of here.

I no longer eat foods that I donít like, just because they are supposedly good for me. I donít eat cucumbers, bell peppers, or radishes. I will try a new recipe or take a chance (once in awhile) and order something different in a restaurant. If I donít like it with the first bite, Iím finished. I have actually asked the server to take the offending dish away and bring a different one ñ something I would never have done in my younger years.

I do not have to finish reading every book I start or continue viewing every movie I tune in to. Some books and movies are boring; some use language that ìhurts my earsî; some have scary scenes that I donít want registered in my subconscious. Put the book down. Turn the movie off.

Speaking my mind comes more easily now. I hope that I continue to be sensitive to the feelings of others, but I donít have much patience left for dealing with what I consider to be a lack of common sense. I am also less argumentative than in past years, so I have cultivated the habit of changing subjects and, sometimes, walking away.

Dressing in comfort, eating what I like, enjoying books and movies, and expressing my true self. Who could ask for more? Life is good!

Ode to Fix-it Man

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Okay, I confess. I am helpless when it comes to a lot of things. Computer acting funny? Car wonít start? Washing machine on the fritz? Donít call me, I wonít have a clue.

Thatís why I consider myself fortunate my husband is so handy. During the day he masquerades as a mild-mannered software engineer. But on evenings and weekends he transforms into the caped crusader, protector of our humble householdóFix-it Man!

Fix-it Man has been unusually busy this past week. The truck needed a new battery. The Saturn had three, yes three, things that needed fixing. The bathroom scale quit working. A sink was stopped up. The lights above the stove went out. Scary virus messages popped up on the computer. And the snow blower wheel broke off.

They are all fixed now. Itís nice being married to a super-hero!

This is a test of our new e-mail blog subscription feature ...

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

We have looked into a simpler way to help people subscribe to blogs rather than only using RSS feeds to something like iGoogle.

We experimented on, so take a look there. Try it out - all you do is put your e-mail address in the "E-Mail Subscription" box there at the top of the right column. Each time a new blog entry is posted, you will get an e-mail alerting you.

First I subscribed, got an e-mail telling me I had to activate the subscription by clicking on the live link. Then I posted a blog entry "This is a test of our new e-mail subscription service" and now I will see if I get my daily update yet today or tomorrow! I will update this post to let† you know!

For some, this will be easier than using the RSS feed to something like iGoogle. Everything is a learning process!

Zoey's Zen

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

My dog Zoey, a miniature dachshund not quite two years old, is quite clever. Sheís apparently figured out Zen, or how to live in the moment.

She likes to grab her Big Dog teddy bear by the neck and jump onto my stomach when Iím lying down reading a book. She twists and turns in a half-circle until she finds the right spot to settle into Zen with a teddy bear larger than her foot-long frame.

Zoey reclaims her bite on Big Dog, a white stuffed dog with floppy brown ears, and sighs. She moves her feet back and forth and flutters her eyes, letting out another slow breath.

As I read, I love the feel of her front paws rubbing feathers on my stomach. Itís as if she is recalling pushing at her motherís tits to release the milk, feeding on the memory of the closeness of her siblings. She sinks into me, not awake, not asleep, just her paws moving steadily.

She needs this teddy bear dance, something she does with Big Dog, Lenny the Leopard and Bunny, her other two stuffed animals. If she gets rushed or too busy, she does the dance. She does it before bed, a ritual of relaxation before sleep.

One evening when she and her golden retriever friend Sophie were brought together for a weekend trip, she tried three times to achieve Zen.

Again I was reading, and Zoey wanted to take Big Dog onto my stomach, but Sophie or one of us required her attention, so she jumped back off the couch. Finally, when she could return, I felt her sigh release.

Zoey has figured out the art of being in the now, something I had to read about in philosophy books and repeat to myself before I could incorporate the concept into my life. I got so caught up in trying to achieve. I looked toward the future with plans. I looked at the past with regret, only if I hadnít done this or decided that.

With Zoey, I see that, in some ways, she knows more than me. She has the instinctive ability to lose herself as our bodies are tied together with the love of a girl and her dog. She knows how to be herself in the moment, whereas I had to read books about overcoming shyness, developing social skills and establishing healthy relationships, required it seems after growing up painfully shy and withdrawn. And even then, I am often self conscious, not able to lose myself in the present. That is, until itís Zoey and I, her in her Zen moment and I, lost in my book.